July 17, 2008

Day 42: 25 May- Navarrenx to Aroue

Rain was the theme yet again! Later I learned that many in private gites had been advised to take the road today, but the mud actually wasn't too bad, and the forest was very beautiful with all the raindrops.
The waterways were certainly all flowing swiftly after recent rain though. Amazing really that our path had not been blocked at some stage by floodwaters.
Outside a foie gras factory they had built a shelter that was quite a 'meeting place'. The factory owner seemed to have built this shelter purely as a service to pilgrims, being a former pilgrim himself. I saw L&R from Paris again here, and had my photo taken by the driver of the 'Dijon' van, who I had seen over several days: he seemed to see me, as a pack-carrier, as a novelty he needed to photograph!
The last section of the day's track was over farmland, and there were some wonderful views. But it was all too wet to get my camera out. It was tricky and muddy walking in places, but eventually I arrived, thoroughly wet, at the village gite.
There was a washing machine and dryer at the gite. It was far too wet to go out and explore, and so I thought it was time to give my sleeping sheet, and as many of my belongings as possible, the shock of a washing machine.

It was a friendly group that evening, and I met old faces and some new ones. When the lady came to collect our money, she also brought the key to some cabinets where we could buy food. There were sensible items like bread and margarine and soup and fish for purchase, in helpful small quantities, and there was also chocolate. Guess what nearly everyone bought??!!

Eventually the rain eased off enough to think of venturing outside a little. We thought the local church was closed and non-visitable. But I, being the non-native-French speaker, took more time to read the notices, and discovered how we could have access! There was a wonderful early portal over a doorway, plus some interesting Basque designs on some headstones in the cemetery. One of the French men staying there was able to share a bit more of the history behind these.
And later in the evening, the clouds lifted enough for the mountains to come into view from the porch area of the gite. It was cold out there, but I basically shamed everyone into leaving the warmth of the dining area inside to come and look! And as the sunset came closer, I remained to watch the magical view, as sunlight lit up different pieces of the ranges. A very special memory.

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